Few stories have been told more times, and in more variations, than Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Whether told in book, television show, movie, play or even cartoon, Great Expectations is a richly woven epic universal in its allegory. After all, haven’t you, at one time or another, been the victim of someone’s great expectations?
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it tells the tale of humble young Pip, who makes his way from the rural life of a poor blacksmith to the high society of London. Driven by his coming-of-age love for Estella, who operates with a ruthless efficiency fine-tuned to conceal her feelings as she pokes at others’, Pip breaks through the expectations of a poor boy from beyond the city.
Along the way, Pip encounters friends, foes and patrons alike, each with their own agenda. Portland Center Stage stalwart Gavin Hoffman plays Joe Gargery, perhaps the only player who’s agenda is as benign as Pip’s. As Hoffman explains, “Joe is the most solid, honest person. Just doing that is half my job.”
Apparently, it’s a job far easier than others. As with many period plays, Great Expectations straddles the class line in old-time England. It was an era where your accent said just as much as your skin color or financial standing in the eyes of the elite.
“Luckily, I only have to play one character,” Hoffman says with chuckle. “Whereas the ladies who play Biddy or Mrs. Joe have to switch between a marsh, almost cockney sound, to received pronunciation. But they’re great, so it’s not an issue.”
British accents, regardless of cadence, echo off the walls of the beautiful Gerding Theater, a location with history to rival that of the play it hosts. “”I love working in this building,” Hoffman says without hesitation. He attributes his comfort not just to the storied beauty of the Armory itself, but to the “incredible support staff” that supports them.
For this reason, it’s a fitting location for a story that almost all of us can relate to. The trappings of society and oft-perplexing machinations of the human heart make for melancholy bedfellows.
“I think most people have been in that position of feeling like they aren’t good enough or they need to become someone else to get what they want. Sometimes it works out, most of the time it doesn’t,” Hoffman finishes.
Curious as to how it works out for Pip and Estella? Portland Center Stage’s adaptation of Great Expectations graces the stage at the Gerding Theater through February 14. Regular tickets start at $25 and can be purchased by clicking here, by calling 503.445.3700, or at the Gerding Theater at the Armory box office, located at 128 NW 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97209. Showtimes are Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m. For full schedule visit PCS’s Great Expectations.